Categorized | National Museum

Crisis meeting at troubled Museum

By: Valerie Hanley, Michael O’Farrell

THE Culture Minister attended a board meeting of the embattled National Museum of Ireland this week – at which a key decision was made about the sex pest crisis engulfing the institution.

A second sexual harassment complaint has been upheld against museum official Dr Andy Halpin, after he was accused of inappropriately touching a young intern working at the museum on her first – and only – day of work.

The shock revelations come after the Irish Mail on Sunday exposed how the museum has become a hotbed of misogyny riven with sexual harassment and assault allegations.

The MoS revealed last week how Mr Halpin, 57, admitted that a visit by schoolchildren to the museum had triggered his fantasies about tall women.

Mr Halpin, who is a director of an evangelical charity, also admitted that a female colleague had become ‘the foil’ for these fantasies and that he had viewed pictures of scantily clad women on his work computer.

Despite these admissions the married man, a member of the museum’s antiquities division, denied sexually harassing archaeologist Adrienne Corless. He has initiated a High Court case in order to be reinstated to his permanent and pensionable State job.

Following our revelations the museum held a board meeting on Thursday, at which a key decision to try to move beyond the crisis was made. Minister Heather Humphreys attended for half an hour of the three-hour session.

A museum source told the MoS: ‘There was a meeting between 10am and 1pm on Thursday and, somewhat unusually, it was held on the top floor of the Natural History Museum.’ A spokeswoman for Ms Humphreys accepted that legacy human resources issues were discussed at the board meeting. But she insisted the meeting was arranged weeks ago.

In a statement issued to the MoS, she said the minister had met with the board members before the meeting but that, in line with legislation she did not participate in the meeting. The National Museum of Ireland declined to comment about the board meeting.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that the museum was advised to take disciplinary action against Mr Halpin after an investigation into allegations he had sexually harassed a female intern almost 30 years his junior.

According to the intern Mr Halpin, during a book launch in November 2015, ‘continually and deliberately made physical contact’ with her by ‘touching her arms, back and waist area with his hands in a manner’ that she ‘believed was inappropriate’.

She claimed the incident left her ‘feeling violated and humiliated’ and as a result the student developed problems eating and sleeping.

As part of his job Mr Halpin worked with interns and volunteers on a daily basis.

A formal investigation revealed Mr Halpin had regularly accessed inappropriate images on the internet in his shared office. After the investigation, it was recommended that he be banned from having any physical contact with colleagues.

Sinn Féin’s Peadar Tóibín, chair of the Oireachtas Arts Committee, said a refusal by government to act had allowed ‘on-going bullying and harassment’ at the museum.

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